A few years back I had the occasion to walk by one of the little evangelical Christian churches in our San Francisco neighborhood. There was a group of people in front, as an elderly Hispanic man walked by the open door of the storefront and genuflected. I nearly jumped at him. “It ain’t Catholic!” They don’t reserve the Eucharist inside. But I really don’t think it made any difference to him. That group and open door in our neighborhood were a sign of the presence of the Holy to him. He simply recognized it as generations of people before him had done to the reserved sacrament in their churches. They gave it the sign of profound respect usually reserved for royalty.
Today’s feast of Corpus Christi honors the body and blood of Christ. It is a seven hundred-year-old celebration of Eucharist, of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and of God’s “Real presence” in human lives. It remembers when Catholic Christians began to treat the Eucharist like royalty. Processions and enthronements said to French people in the 12th century, “We have a king so far yet so near to our lives.” St. John Marie Vianney was once asked what he did during his long visits to the reserved sacrament in the tabernacle on the altar in his little parish church. He said, “I LOOK AT HIM, HE LOOKS AT ME!”
In many parts of the world, Catholics form processions to carry the sacrament out of the church and through the neighborhood. The symbol is powerful: Christ is the food and hope for our journey. There is no reason to fear even in the Arizona summer heat. Christ is making the journey with us. The Scriptures for today renew that awesome hope. A child was once asked in a health class to name the three major food groups…He responded, “BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER.
Imitation is the greatest compliment. In Eucharist on Sundays, we do this sacred meal over and over. Every act of that most sacred meal needs to be done with love and the kind of hosting modeled by the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed.
We remember by doing. Jesus said, “Take and eat, this is my Body!”
In an age of fast food, we have to pause and savor and ponder the meaning of Christ’s body and blood. The feast of Corpus Christi honors the food that lasts, nourishes and transforms us into what we eat. It sends us out to be the Sacrament of Christ’s love for the Father and the Father’s love for us. We become what we eat – a bridge to the holy, for every hungry person and every storefront.
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM